On the Science of Changing Sex

Time will tell…

Posted in Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on March 24, 2010

androgynous faceWhile I’ve barely started to delve into the Nuttbrock et al. study, Anne Lawrence has already published a Letter in response.  In it she also points out that the Nuttbrock study fully confirms the Freund/Blanchard two type taxonomy of MTF transsexuality, plus disproves several points where Nutbrock believed they had demonstrated differences from Blanchard’s earlier work.

First, Nuttbrock stated that they had found differences between the non-homosexual subtypes in the amount of reported autogynephilic arousal to cross-dressing where Blanchard didn’t.  Lawrence pointed, in graphical format, that the two studies essentially agree.  The only point that Blanchard had made, quite correctly, that since his study had fewer subjects, the level of statistical signal to his differences did not meet the mathematical standard of “significance”, and could not be accepted as gospel.  Meaning, that this difference might have been merely noise.  With the Nuttbrock data confirming the differences, we can now consider the possibility that these differences are real.  We are then left with the task of interpreting what these differences could mean.  Likely, we will need to do more in depth research to test new hypotheses, as we can now accept the basic taxonomy as convincingly validated.

Another point that Nuttbrook et al. made is that they failed to duplicate Blanchard’s later work that showed that there was a slight non-linearity in the correlation between gynephilia intensity and the expression of autogynephilia.  Lawrence showed that this was purely a mathematical artifact, given that Blanchard had measured gynephilic intensity in six levels, while Nutbrook had only measure them in three.  If we lump Blanchard’s data into only three levels, we get essentially the same data plot as Nuttbrock.  Thus, it is likely this minor dip in the correlation is, extant, likely to be buried in the Nuttbrock population, but was not adequately measured.

All in all, Lawrence has put to rest any remaining questions about the Nuttbrock study differences from Blanchard’s.  Once again, we can state with assurance, that Blanchard’s work is fully replicated and validated.

The only difference between Nuttbrock and Blanchard remaining is one of theoretical interpretation.  Nuttbrock opines that Blanchard’s interpretation is essentialist.  That is to say, that Blanchard’s theory is that autogynephilia as a phenomena and etiology arises from an essential difference between typical heterosexual males and AGP transsexuals.  For example, this could mean that there is a biological etiology to this difference, perhaps prenatal hormones, perhaps differences in genes that code some subset of hormone receptors in the brain, perhaps epigenetic changes in gene expression.  While Nuttbrock rejects this notion and invokes instead, Bem’s sexual conditioning model, described by Bem as “exotic becomes erotic”.  Thus, interestingly, Nuttbrock would seem to see sexual arousal to cross-dressing as truly being “fetishistic transvestism”… that is to say, that it is a conditioned response akin to conventional fetishes!

Lawrence points out that invoking Bem’s theory is a misinterpretation of his theory, that Bem theorized that ‘‘individuals can become erotically attracted to a class of individuals from whom they felt different during childhood’’

Nuttbrock is right that Blanchard, and other researchers, do personally hold the suspicion that autogynephilia is essential and likely of biological origin.  In fact, Blanchard has recently argued that autogynephilia is not a fetish and should be removed from that category in the DSM.  Of course, traditionalists in the DSM review committee are resisting this change, so as a compromise, it has been proposed that autogynephilia be listed as a descriptor, an ‘add-on’ to Fetishistic Transvestism.

As a consequence of their analysis of the data from their study, Nuttbrock et al. seemingly ignoring the fact that it exactly duplicates previous studies going back twenty-five years and more, make the rather astounding conclusion that only the older generation of trans-folk have or will have autogynephilic arousal to cross-dressing, since in their view, the “exotic” nature of cross-dressing will become a thing of the past, and thus not lead to the development of sexually arousing fetishistic cross-dressing.  Science is done best when it makes predictions.  So, this prediction can be tested in thirty years time.

My own prediction is that nothing of the sort will happen.  Late transitioning, autogynephilic transsexuals of the future are already in the making, marrying their girlfriends, dealing with their autogynephilic nature as best they can, dreaming that someday that they too will be ready to live full-time as women and get SRS and HRT.  After-all… I heard this very same prediction 30 years ago… that everyone in the near future would be transitioning young, as it was no longer difficult to seek out SRS/HRT, given the easy availability.  Nothing changed.

Time will tell…


A validation of Blanchard’s Typology: Comment on Nuttbrock et al. (2010)
Lawrence, A., Archives of Sexual Behavior

A Further Assessment of Blanchard’s Typology of Homosexual versus Non-Homosexual or Autogynephilic Gender Dysphoria
Nuttbrock, et al., Archives of Sexual Behavior

The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Transvestic Fetishism
Blanchard, R., Archives of Sexual Behavior

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